Elizabeth Pechaitis, Client Relations Director
I work with clients every day to help them define and build their brand identity. I understand their challenges and struggles, not only because of my marketing expertise, but because it wasn’t too long ago that I went through a personal re-branding process. It was just over a year ago that I made the career transition from teaching professional to marketing professional.
When I tell people that I used to work in the education field as a high school teacher, I get responses ranging from, “Really?!” to “And you live to tell?” People usually ask where I taught and for how long, and why I decided to leave. Although there are many reasons why people leave the teaching profession, like increased class sizes and responsibilities, decreased wages and benefits, or the pressure to keep up with constantly changing state and federal laws and regulations, none of those reasons are why I left. I left because it was time for me to re-brand me.
Understanding My Marketing Capabilities and Passions
Even though we have all spent part of our lives as students, most people don’t understand what teachers really do. Teaching can be an intense, high-pressure job. Teachers are accountable to school administrators, parents, and most importantly, the students. It is a lot of responsibility and a huge amount of work. Teachers must be creative, resourceful and highly-organized. They are expected to display authority in the classroom and show compassion during difficult conversations with both adults and students. It is both extremely challenging and rewarding all at the same time.
When I went to college, I wasn’t planning to become a teacher. I obtained my undergraduate degree in marketing and business administration. After working in sales and advertising for about a year, I decided to go back to school and pursue my teaching certificate in secondary marketing and business education. From there, I went on to earn my master’s degree in education.
I taught a variety of marketing, career development and entrepreneurship classes for middle school and high school students for 14 years. In addition to teaching, I developed and implemented a school-based retail program and initiated a local chapter of DECA. I travelled with the DECA students to national competitions across the country and I even got to experience the excitement and satisfaction of advising a national champion team in 2016.
Exploring My Personal Brand Potential
Although I moved around within the education system, I was comfortable in my role. Or, maybe I should say that I was secure in my brand identity. As a teacher, I devoted a great deal of time and energy to helping my students discover their passions and unlock their true potential. But at some point I realized that I wasn’t doing that for myself. Even though I loved teaching, I wondered if there was something more outside of the four walls of the classroom.
I first connected with Hoyden while teaching marketing and entrepreneurship at the Lenawee Intermediate School District TECH Center. I invited Sarah Stanley to join my program advisory committee to share her industry expertise and offer advice for the development of the program. That connection led to a field trip for my students to visit the Hoyden offices and a group of my DECA students worked with Hoyden on a special project.
Then, Hoyden reached out to me to see if I would be interested in taking on a summer job as a project manager for a marketing campaign for the City of Sterling Heights. Initially, I thought of it as a good opportunity to bring relevant experience to my classroom. Plus, teachers are always looking to make a little extra money during the summer months.
Putting a Spin on My Marketing Expertise
What I thought would be a fun a summer job turned into a serious, life-changing job offer within a few months. While I struggled with the decision, my curiosity and desire to try something new eventually won. Transitioning to a new role in marketing required a re-branding of my experience and expertise. I had to figure out how to translate my years of teaching marketing into real value for Hoyden’s clients.
As it turns out, the world of teaching is not as disconnected from the business world as you might think. The needs of my clients vary, just like the needs of my students. I listen to my clients with the same amount of interest and compassion as I did with my students. And each client requires a customized plan that works for their specific needs and wants – just like my students. As an added bonus, I have a lot more flexibility to take risks and innovate than I did when I was teaching.
Applying Strategy to Personal and Professional Growth
Change can be scary. But it is also exciting and energizing. In my role as Client Relations Director at Hoyden, there is always a new project to dive into. I have the opportunity to learn about different industries and work with a variety of clients, while applying the fundamentals of marketing which serve as the foundation for everything we do. As a teacher, I spent a lot of time in my own classroom. My learning came from reading or workshops. At Hoyden, I learn every day. I am inspired by the collaborative process and being part of a diverse team of people, each with incredible talent and unique skillset. By working together to accomplish collective goals for our clients, I continue to learn and grow from my new experiences and relationships.
This past year has been an exciting journey filled with personal and professional growth. I miss my students and seeing them experience success. But I have no regrets about making a career change. I am being challenged to expand my skillset and apply it in different ways. I didn’t have to start over. I had to re-brand myself. I did it and I love it.
For anyone out there who is thinking about re-branding themselves, and applying your talent to other fields, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and try something new. Ultimately, I followed my instincts, took a risk, and it led me to a brand-new career!